It was bitter disagreement over United Nations politics-as-usual that dragged the International Women's Conference into a headline-grabbing all-night session, which ended early this morning with the adoption by consensus of the conference's final document.
But the real news at the close of the U.N. Decade for Women was that the women's movement has achieved a breadth and power that the 157 nations represented here could not afford to ignore.
"There was real politics going on here. The women's movement in just 10 years has made the personal concerns of women into a world political movement," said American feminist Betty Friedan.
The final document to come out of this two-week-long conference, the third such international gathering in the past 10 years, is a manifesto of more than 350 feminist proposals demanding that the world's women be given their fair share of power in government, commerce and in their families.
It also is an acknowledgment that nations, especially those in the Third World, cannot advance so long as half their populations are disproportionately poor, overworked and denied the same rights as men.
The specific demands, which were approved unanimously and toughened during 10 days of debate and negotiations, call on the world's governments to enact laws and create institutions that will help women in the following areas:
*Parental leave and day care for children to reduce the "double burden" of working women with families. Sharing between men and women of household work and child care responsibilities.
*Increased participation of women in trade unions, political parties and the military. In many developing countries, this would include more power for women in village and tribal government.
*In employment, equal opportunity in training and hiring, and greater involvement of women in technical and scientific fields. The conference called on governments to recognize the economic value of housework and figure out how much it contributes to each country's gross national product.
There also was "comparable worth" language, opposed by the United States, asking that women receive "equal pay for work of equal value." The language, intended to close the wage gap between women and men, means that governments would have to decide, for example, whether a secretary and a truck driver do work of equal value.
*Immediate protection for abused women and children, as well as criminal prosecution of those family members responsible. The resolution on family violence, which was strengthened in meetings here, says women have "the right and the duty to fight" back against their abusers.
The tough language on abused women represents significant change since the last women's conference in Copenhagen in 1980. Abuse of women received only a passing reference there, with the Soviet Ukraine insisting that there was no spouse abuse within its border. Pakistan said then that the subject was beyond the purview of an international gathering.
The United Nations, of course, cannot force governments to implement any of the proposals that their delegations agreed to in Nairobi. U.N. officials say approving the document constitutes "a moral commitment" buttressed by international consensus. Feminists from non-governmental organizations say that the conference report will give them leverage in their attempts to prod governments into passing laws and creating bureaucracies to further women's rights.
"Before, it was impossible to get the attention of 'the ambassador.' Women's issues were way down on the list . . . . The Women's Decade gave government a springboard to present women's issues as important," said Leticia Shahani, U.N. assistant secretary general for social development and humanitarian affairs. "These conferences are terribly important, but the acid test is at the governmental level."
In the United States it remains unclear how much influence the conference's final report will have on federal government policy. Maureen Reagan, head of the U.S. delegation, told a press conference last week that the report, which will be presented to the U.N. General Assembly for approval, is a "piece of paper that is not going to make a difference."
Today she said she will tell President Reagan to reconsider future U.S. participation in women's conferences.
She said that she would present the document to the Congressional Women's Caucus in Washington but that she would not ask the rest of the 33-member delegation to lobby for it in Washington.
That leaves the task to American feminists. Leaders of the National Organization for Women said here that they will use the report to pressure the Reagan administration to make good on the feminist goals agreed on in Nairobi.
Clearly, however, many of the proposals are antithetical to Reagan administration philosophy and practice. They call for increased government spending and new programs for day care, for a national agency to advance women's status and for federal laws ensuring parental leave and "flex" time for working mothers.
On broader political issues related to peace, there were several resolutions that tacitly criticized the two superpowers. The final report included several condemnations of the arms race, with a specific reference to the "spread of the arms race . . . to outer space."
Friedan said that one of the surprises of the conference was the progress made in the last decade by women outside the United States.
"It is a lesson in humility. We are not the most advanced nation in the world anymore for women's rights," she said. "For the past five years, since Reagan came into office, we American feminists have been occupied defending the rights that we thought we had won 10 years ago. In that time, the rest of the world has gone ahead of us."
She referred to parental leave and day care funded by governments and private firms, common in Western Europe. Many American feminists also mentioned the administration's challenge to legalized abortion and efforts by religious fundamentalists to limit teen-age access to sex education and contraceptives.